International work in an international world. Part II: surviving as a foreigner in an international company.

If you are new in a company, many things can go wrong. Adapting yourself in an international company in another country may be easier than fighting with the language barrier in a small local SME, but still a challenge. If you found yourself away from home in an international giant, here are some basic tips:

  • Manage to eat: Eat with everybody what they all eat, where they all eat, when they all eat. Eating is one of the most ancient ways of getting closer to people. Your tasks are not your first priority – you REALLY should eat the way your colleagues do.
  • Manage to participate: Meetings are a necessity for your job, but clubs are the necessity to keep your job. If your colleagues do anything in their spare time, be it yoga, evening cocktails or even sailing, do yourself a favour and participate. The social game is the next most important ancient way of becoming a part of a group.
  • Manage to talk: Personally, I feel like an idiot when people are discussing football. I have neither love nor interest for football. I will be by no means able to support a conversation on this topic – but surely can ask 1-2 questions to be polite and show my respect to the interests of my colleagues.
  • Manage to avoid: Topics related to politics, critics of behaviours and cultures, personal life details, religion, talking about other colleagues. Many people know that those topics are taboo, but I still hear them every week.
  • Manage to observe: How people are interacting with each other. How are they reacting, responding, working, greeting others and asking about favours. It might be very different from what you are used to.
  • Manage to explain: Feel free to explain, why you do things differently. Feel free to tell that you don’t eat pork or should wear a head scarf all the time. Every normal international company should show acceptance to the basics.

International work in an international world. Part I: Looking for the right international company to work for

With this week, I will share some observations on the international work in German companies. They might be different from your experience, and I will be glad if you share yours in comments.

First of all, let’s have a look at how some transnational giants handle the diversity.

  • When I submitted an application for McKinsey & Company, they announced something like: By the way, we have support groups for women, LGBTQ and disabled! Wait a minute..did you really put me as a woman in the same line?.. I withdrew my application right away.
  • When I started working for a BIG4 company in Hamburg, we had about 8% foreigners and only one guy on the floor who did not speak German. Yeah, as international as it might be!
  • When I had an interview with the company I am working for now, I asked, whether they already have foreigners in their teams. They told: “Of course we have foreigners, we are a very open-minded company!” Sure, they have! I am the third one!
  • Every company I have an interview with asks me, whether I can work well in an international context. I am a Russian who moved from China to Germany after Spain, which one can clearly sees in my CV…but a question from a protocol is a questions from the protocol!
  • But enough jokes. If you are looking for a really nice international company..ask, which language is the official communication language in the company. Is it English? Congrats, you are one step closer to an open-minded employer!

Work in India: hard challenges with a chilling fleur. Doing business as a woman in India

India is a very patriarchal country. On the other hand, when we visited the Amer Fort in Jaipur, one showed us a small window in the main wall, which opened a view directly to the square where the political meetings of the men took place many centuries ago:

DSC03695

(The small window is above the central entrance on the “balcony”)

One was able to clearly hear and see everything from that window – and there was also a kitchen on the left just next to it. As you have already guessed, the window was for the main wife, who was supposed to watch and listen to the meetings. If at some point she would decide that her husband was under too much pressure or was going to take a wrong decision, she could ring a bell, and her husband would take a small breake come to have a council with her. At least, this is what I was told 😉

I have a very special respect to Indian women who went to politics. Even in restaurants of western hotel chains my BF was asked, what I would like to eat – not me. In general, people did not addressed – and it was strange, even though I come from a patriarchal country as well. In the culture where the man is the ruler, it is hard for women to fight their way up. However, when I see modern Indian enterprises, there are women climbing the career stairs, creating start-ups and becoming active in social entrepreneurship. When I compare the business landscapes, I remember Turkey, the country of amazing beaches and luxurious spa hotels. Indeed, when the father was about to die and the land was distributed between the children, women would receive the “least attractive lands” – next to the sea, with no woods and no fields. Who is ruling the touristic field now? India, as well, has a lot of potential, but still need to find the niche for the female leadership.

Work in India: hard challenges with a chilling fleur. Cheating as a part of the business model

Beware of Indians who do not see a long-term value in you. Like in every Asian country with a very high population, cheating is a part of the business. Whatever you need, try to ask your friends or business partners – the services and the wares not only will be cheaper, but also will have a better quality.

We all read the stories, how one gives 500 Rupees to a shopkeeper in India, and the shopkeeper tells you that you gave just 400 Rupees. You recount – indeed, he had only 400 Rupees in his hands. On the other hand, Indians are not only about scam. I often noticed that people who had respect to me did not recount the money I gave them, be it a guide, a hotel driver or anybody else. This is, I suppose, a way to demonstrate the trust – therefore, please pay attention that you are giving the right amount of money to each and everyone and feel free to leave a tip if you are satisfied with the services 😉

I am a Russian woman with experience in Asian countries, so I know how to bargain. Indians, however, took my skills to a very different level 😉 Everybody, be it in business or just during the shopping, will test your skills of knowing the real price. In shops, for instance, I never paid the initial price. Nor I paid the 80% of the price. 40% of the initial price was the very maximum, and I was in a hurry. I do not consider smart bargaining to be cheating, but even I felt overwhelmed when a shopkeeper tried to sell me amethysts for a European price for emeralds. You may decide for yourself, whether you want to convince your business partners or shopkeepers that you are smart enough to bargain „on the Indian level” or you just leave and search for somebody who starts with less astronomical offers. I did both and enjoyed the process.

P.s.: Ever wondered, why people in India often ask you, how much did you pay for an item? They want to know, how much Europeans are ready to spend on things. Or, if your price is low enough, how much should they pay when they go to that place so they would not overpay.

Thought for the day

Me: „I can’t make it to the meeting on time if I go to the jour fix at 10:00. My meeting is at 11:00, and it’s a 15 min. walk.”

Assistant: “No problem! Take the corporate electro scooter (Remark: This is not a usual “Italian scooter”, but the one like you used to have when you were a child!) and you will be up on that hill in no time!”

Me: “You must be kidding. Me staying straight on high heels in an Italian coat on the roller..By the way, how fast can it go?”

Assistant: “Up to 30 km/h!”

Me: “Give it to me right now!!! ”

Work in India: hard challenges with a chilling fleur. Business in India is about respect and connections

Like in many Asian countries, you will not go far in India if you don’t have the right connections. Moreover, the whole local touristic business system is built against foreigners on the basis of personal connections of the locals. Here is an example. You ask at the reception of your hotel to provide you with a driver, because you want to go the city centre. They have all the hotel’s cars booked, so they ask a relative of a waiter in the breakfast room if he knows a driver. He has a relative who is a driver. The driver picks you up and asks, where would you like to go. You want to go to a temple in the city centre. On your way, the driver asks, whether you need a tour guide for just 500 Rupees. You agree. On the way back, your guide offers you to visit one-of-a-kind shop with locally made scarfs. You agree and buy two scarfs, bargaining badly and paying only 40% of the initial price. Should I tell you, how much you overpaid and how many people will get a share from those 40%? Right, start with the hotel’s reception..

What is this story about? Right, if you want to get into a good cheap shop, you should give a good tip to the hotel receptionist first!

Work in India: hard challenges with a chilling fleur. The casts system has its goals

The casts system is presented in a very bad way to all Europeans, but I have seen a different side of it on the very first day in India. When your grandfather was a jeweller, your father is a jeweller, you have no choice but to become a jeweller as well. You will not fight for a place at a university of architecture to become an architect, you will not try to collect money for a career of a politician – because you are born to become a jeweller – and you accept it. But you may dream to become a bank works in your next life, if you wish! I believe, this is the main reason why India had so many talented people for many centuries – professional knowledge, generated within the centuries, were transferred to every new generation.

At the same time, we will never be able to understand it in Europe or in the US. “From nothing to everything” is our goal – while in India you are already born with everything you may have. This is the difference, this is the reason, why we will never be satisfied with what we have – but Indians will be. This is the main though we seek in India while developing our soul with Yoga and ancient philosophies. But we will never find it, because this is not the kind of answer we are looking for.

The collective social mind in India means supporting each other. Everybody in a cast system has his place. I have seen people who were born on the streets to beg being children of beggars whose parents were street beggars as well. Haven’t you notice that those people somehow receive food and water to survive? Because the care about other casts is deep in the roots of the Indian social system. A man from the middle class, for instance, would not iron his clothes or shave his beard by himself. He would give this job to others, pay for their services and therefore support their families with money. My travel guide in Delhi being from a “middle class” caste supported six families on the weekly basis, saving her own time for being a guide for us. You might bite me for that, buy I found this system much more humane than the one in Russia, when those buying caviar in the supermarket ignore old people without any money even for bread.

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